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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Bloomingburg mayor speaks out after vandalism 

 Mayor Frank Gerardi has heard all of the opinions on the latest, perhaps ugliest, incident in the battle for Bloomingburg.

Windows were shattered four of six nights last week on three new, unopened businesses owned by developer Shalom Lamm, whose 396-home Hasidic development is at the heart of the battle. They're among several buildings owned by Lamm on a Main Street already occupied by Hasidim.

Geradi, who was elected by opponents of the development, knows Lamm calls the incidents "a hate crime." He also knows that opposition against Lamm runs so deep, some of his opponents actually suspect Lamm of having something to do with the vandalism.

In his lengthiest statement about the incidents, Gerardi condemned the violence, pledged his Board of Trustees' cooperation with the police and acknowledged the violent emotions behind the acts.

"It remains to be seen whether what has occurred is mere vandalism or something far worse," he said in a written statement. But he concludes that statement on behalf of his Board of Trustees with these words:

"We are all neighbors, regardless of what we imagine may divide us. We may disagree with one another. We may shout and perhaps bring each other to court. But ultimately we are all neighbors. We ask all people of good conscience to join us in condemning the hatred that apparently gave birth to these reprehensible acts."

"It has stop; it has to end," he said in a brief interview.

Gerardi wants to let the state police — who have been at the scene of the incidents but did not return several phone calls — do their job.

"Let the police handle it," he said.

"I pledge the complete, full and enthusiastic cooperation of this administration with this investigation," he said in the statement. "If it should be determined that these properties have been vandalized in an effort to dissuade Jewish families or others from moving into this area, or to frighten and intimidate those who have elected to live here, I urge law enforcement and the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office to aggressively pursue the individual or individuals who have committed these acts and to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

Both an opponent of the development and someone who criticized Gerardi for not speaking up sooner agreed that the law must prevail. "It's a marvelous statement that should have been made weeks ago," said lawyer Marcelle Matthews, who last week demonstrated against the violence.

"We 110 percent believe in adherence to the law," said Holly Roche, leader of the Rural Community Coalition which has been fighting Lamm's development in court.

"It's the reason we engaged in this fight. Vandalism is not acceptable in any way, shape or form."

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140702/NEWS/407020306/-1/NEWS

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